Yesterday (15th December 2021) the College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council released a new framework for policing violence against women and girls (VAWG).
It’s encouraging to finally see acknowledgement of the need for standardised policing when it comes to VAWG and that all victims deserve a consistent service, regardless of where they live or their backgrounds. Intersectionality is a crucial part of this, and so we particularly welcome the emphasis on police recognising the extra barriers in place for Black, minoritised, disabled, and migrant women and girls. We welcome the appointment of DCC Maggie Blyth as the National Police Coordinator for VAWG and acknowledge her decisive first actions in launching this framework and her intention in calling for a fundamental shift in culture within the police force, as this highlights that there are deep-rooted issues that urgently need to be addressed.
There are three overarching objectives set out in the framework:
- To improve trust in policing.
- To relentlessly pursue perpetrators.
- To create safer spaces.
There is clearly a lot of work to be done to achieve these objectives, in particular around pursuing perpetrators. In current policing practices, victims and survivors are left feeling like they are the ones on trial, with officers spending more time investigating their credibility than the crime itself. Victims and survivors have been treated appallingly for years: for many women these measures will be too late. That’s why it’s imperative that the police dedicate the time, resources and commitment needed to make these improvements, and why we’ll be monitoring their progress closely and holding them to account if measures are not met.
Some of the pledges within the framework include:
- Communicate immediately, clearly and frequently that misogynistic, sexist and sexualised behaviour will not be tolerated by anyone in policing.
- Constantly seek to expand the reach of communications, including through engagement with third-sector organisations that are working closely with different groups of women and girls.
- Complete an urgent skills gap analysis of the number of specialist trained staff, relative to current demand. This should include specialist staff trained in initial response to VAWG-related offences, investigators and specialist trained interviewers.
Tackling misogyny, working with experts, and ensuring ongoing and adequate training of officers are essential requirements if we are to see improvements in how victims and survivors are treated by the police. The framework is a step in the right direction, we now need to see buy-in from all police forces and assurances that it will be followed and reviewed on a regular basis. The success of the framework very much depends on the commitment that individual forces have in implementing the wide range of changes required.
We are hopeful that the framework has the potential to bring about change, but we also recognise that a whole-system approach needs to be taken in order to transform the experiences of victims and survivors within the criminal justice system. Only with equivalent commitment from other justice agencies can the culture of disbelief and apathy be overcome, and that is the very least that victims and survivors deserve.